Yesterday I attended a conference at UTSC titled “Re-Imagining Scholarly Communication“. The keynote speaker, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, spoke mainly on scholarly communities revolving around ideas of peer review and Stefan Sinclair focused mostly on the history and strength of web-based digital scholarship applications in Canada however an interesting commonality they shared was a proposal to think beyond the journal article as “the” form of scholarship in academia.
Early modern drama, and Shakespeare’s works in particular, have a very troubled past. So troubled that, especially in Shakespeare’s case, editors have been fighting over what exactly were Shakespeare’s “true words”. Early modern methods of printing, copying, and ideas of copyright were varied to say the least. Thanks to nearly infinite variation that comes from this, any play that has Shakespeare’s name should also have the names of its editors. So much is involved in editing Shakespeare and early modern plays, the length of time involved in editing the Cambridge Edition of Ben Jonson’s works comes to mind, that any editor could easily be considered a coauthor. Editors resolve variant issues anywhere from single words, like “hath” or “have”, “Ay” or “I”, etc., to complete passages, like in Act 3.1 of King Lear. Editors have fought over these issues for so long, contrasting schools have formed, and different editions have be published in response to others, that I feel like a particularly modern question must be asked of this early modern “drama”: “Do individual words matter, specifically in literature?”
While I have been researching digital humanities and digital humanities centres, I have come across a lot of interesting ideas and quotes, especially regarding the relationship between the humanities and computing. Here is a small collection of the quotes I have found, arranged in a pseudo-meaningful way. I am not quite sure of the point that I am trying to make here, perhaps it is several. Hopefully you will find these as interesting as I do.
I watched a TED talk by Aaron Koblin about “artfully visualizing our humanity” but I think his talk could also serve as a “how to” guide for the best way of thinking about the digital humanities. In it, Koblin speaks mainly about accessing large data sets and crowd-sourcing, both of which are topics that might not seem applicable to the humanities. But, one of the things I remember about Professor Michael Witmore’s work is one of our conversations regarding statistics. Professor Witmore was relaying to me a conversation he had with a professor of statistics about trying to find the best method for “artfully visualizing” Shakespeare’s corpus and literature in general. The statistics the other professor recommended for Witmore’s project were similar in kind to the methods used on the human genome project but Witmore’s study of literature was infinitely more complex than DNA. That literature could contain so many variables is, at first glance, hard to conceive of but becomes easier as one considers that individual words, even common “filler” words, are counted as well as phrases, clauses, etc. In this respect, even a contained data set like Shakespeare’s corpus proved to be much hard to visualize clearly and meaningfully than scientific studies. The “largeness” of the humanities then, is a question of scope; a question that has had trouble being answered as scholarship moves into the digital realm.
Clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information.
I recently wondered, “what is TEI used for?” I have known about TEI for about three years but somehow its purpose slipped my mind. (There is a basic introduction to TEI here.) All I could remember was that it took a lot of time. When I looked back at my dissertation (where I had wrote a little about it in relation to the Rossetti Archive), I could not remember much more about it than it was used as a structuring element for the massive amounts of information housed in the Rossetti Archive. After a quick Google search, asking the same question, I came up with an answer.
I have been working with Professor William Bowen on an initiative to create a Digital Humanities Research Centre on the University of Toronto Scarborough‘s (UTSC) campus, much like the HRC on the University of York’s campus. While the concept of such a centre is very nascent at UTSC, many of the faculty and staff I have talked to seem to share an idea of this centre ultimately being a repository for all of the digital work going on at UTSC whether that means a collection of data points or contacts for various digital tasks. Due to this, I have been researching a lot about digital humanities centres, including their various functions, ideologies, and output, and I have found that a lot of scholarly writings directly address this idea of a Humanities Research Centre as a digital archive.
The idea of an DHRC and its role as a central archive is complicated, in part because its nature as a digital archive. Bill Bowen was recently at a conference in Cuba that examined the nature of digital artifacts and their place in digital records/cyberinfrastructure. When Bill came back, he mentioned that it was very interesting to be at a conference talking about digital technologies when he could use so few of them there. This got me thinking about digital technology and its innate intangibility. For instance, what does the complicated structure and high level of organization of a digital database matter if you cannot even access a computer?
I have been working with Professor William Bowen on an initiative to create a Digital Humanities Research Centre (DHRC) on the University of Toronto Scarborough‘s (UTSC) campus, much like the HRC on the University of York’s campus. While the concept of such a centre is very nascent at UTSC, many of the faculty and staff I have talked to seem to share an idea of this centre ultimately being a repository for all of the digital work going on at UTSC whether that means a collection of data points or contacts for various digital tasks. Due to this, I have been researching a lot about digital humanities centres, including their various functions, ideologies, and output, and I have found that a lot of scholarly writings directly address this idea of a Humanities Research Centre as a digital archive.
The idea of an DHRC and its role as an archival centre is complicated, in part because it is difficult to pin down exactly what the HRC should do. Interested faculty and staff are often just beginning working with the Digital Humanities (DH) and they often are unsure of where to start or who to go to in order to discuss their interests. As Orville Burton notes, “the web has moved so quickly from having a few sites to being saturated, that guides are needed on how to evaluate sites on the web and where to find history projects and archives” (Burton 209). Coincidentally the library often does not have the resources to support staff and their research projects so a physical centre is needed to address this. However, such a communal space does not ensure a functioning digital research community.